Take a Closer Look at Your Cleaning Supplies For These Questionable Chemicals

Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid

Our health is affected by far more than the food we eat and how much we exercise. Everything we allow in our lives and in the environment around us has an impact - including our cleaning products!

It turns out that most traditional cleaning products actually bring unwanted chemicals into our lives that are being linked to disease and chronic conditions. They stay in our homes: one study tested United States indoor dust and found some phthalates, a fragrance chemical, flame retardants and phenols in at least 90% of dust samples across multiple studies. These chemicals are all linked to health issues.

The chemicals listed below are some key chemicals we believe you should avoid whenever possible.

But, before you read through them, avoid any overwhelm by remembering that any choice that you make to reduce the chemicals being spread throughout your home during cleaning in a great one! Because small changes make big differences, even in your cleaning products! And each chemical removed is one more off your body. So just keep flipping your labels one at a time and seeing what’s in them - deciding if it’s what you want in your home - and swapping it out or keeping it! (If you’re just getting started with swapping out your cleaning products or you want to see what we love to use, grab our “Safer Cleaning Guidebook.”

And honestly, reading cleaning labels is hard work and you aren’t guaranteed a company will disclose all the ingredients, so look into the companies who make the products just as much as you look into the individual products. Companies who care deeply about the safety of the planet and people will put great care into the ingredients they choose to include in their products.


Manufacturers use alkylphenols are used to make alkylphenol ethoxylates, surfactants that increase the efficiency of detergents and other cleaning products. In a study of air contamination in 120 homes, 100 percent of the homes contained alkylphenols.


Ammonia actually exists naturally in humans and in the environment. You’ll find it in glass cleaners and polishes. It irritates human tissue, especially the lungs. Prolonged exposure can cause permanent damage to mucous membranes and the cardiovascular system.


The same chemical used to clean pool water is concentrated in scouring powder, laundry whiteners, toilet bowl cleaners, and mildew removers. Prolonged exposure can disrupt thyroid function, irritate skin and lungs, cause chronic dryness, and more.

Quats (Quaternary ammonium compounds)

To avoid quats, all you have to do it avoid anything labeling “antibacterial. These intense disinfectant chemicals are in many disinfectant wipes, sprays and other household cleaners that are designed to kill germs. They do kill germs, but they also cause asthma, skin rashes, and potentially harm sperm quality, reducing fertility and result in birth defects in mice.


Formaldehyde (sometimes called formalin). Designated by the U.S. government and World Health Organization as a known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is listed on labels or worker safety documents as an ingredient in dozens of cleaners in the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Formaldehyde may also be generated in cleaning product containers by formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. In this situation, manufacturers don’t add formaldehyde itself to the product, but the preservatives they add release formaldehyde in order to kill bacteria and extend the product’s shelf life. When the EWG tested cleaning products used in California schools, testing showed Comet, Pine-Sol and Simple Green cleaning products all had formaldehyde! Formaldehyde vapors have been detected when citrus- and pine-based ingredients mix with ambient ozone inside homes (CARB 2008). Formaldehyde formation is worst on smoggy days, when ozone levels are high.


Common exposures are multi-purpose cleaners and window sprays. It is a solvent that helps break down dirt and oil. It’s worth avoiding (in our opinion) because testing indicates extended exposure to 2-butoxyethanol can cause high-grade liver and kidney damage, narcosis, and pulmonary edema.


You may not recognize the term “sulfates” but they are EVERYWHERE! You’re using them in anything that lathers - shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, toothpastes, household cleaners, laundry detergents, dish soaps, and more. Sulfates are considered safe in concentrations below 1 percent or when used for short periods of time, according to the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, the problem we see is that they are in everything. in higher concentrations, studies showed sulfates did cause cellular damage. At a concentration of 15 percent with prolonged exposure, harmful effects on laboratory rats included skin irritation, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea and even death

Other chemicals to consider kicking our of your house:

Bleach chlorine



Glycol Ether



Sodium hypochlorite

Remember, selectively choosing to remove questionable man-made chemicals from your home is a win. The stress of perfection will often do far more harm! Start with the heavy hitters and go from there.

You’ve got this!

Heather & Jennifer











A. Purohit et al. (2000). Quaternary ammonium compounds and occupational asthma. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, August 2000, vol. 73, no. 6:, 423-27.

J.A. Bernstein et al. (1994). A combined respiratory and cutaneous hypersensitivity syndrome induced by work exposure to quaternary amines. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, August 1994, vol. 94, no. 2, Part 1, 257-59.